5 Best Movies to Watch by Barry Shabaka Henley

Staff & contributors

An instant essential film in the Jim Jarmusch catalog. In his traditional directing fashion, Paterson disregards plot and instead finds inspiration in deconstructing the seemingly mundane aspects of life. Adam Driver stars as a bus driver and amateur poet who leads a content life staying away from change as much as possible. His girlfriend, Laura (played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani), is the complete opposite: eager to be creative, to explore new paths, and to decorate and design every object in her life. Jarmusch takes these two characters, adds only a few others, and makes a movie that celebrates similar so-called simple lives, reaching surprising levels of beauty. Again, not much happens in terms of plot, and the pace is slow. But if you are interested in the kind of movie that will let you into people's lives, you will love Paterson.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Driver, Barry Shabaka Henley, Brian McCarthy, Chasten Harmon, Frank Harts, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur, Jaden Michael, James Van Treuren, Jared Gilman, Johnnie Mae, Jorge Vega, Kara Hayward, Luis Da Silva Jr., Martin Van Treuren, Masatoshi Nagase, Method Man, Nellie, Owen Asztalos, Rizwan Manji, Sophia Muller, Sterling Jerins, William Jackson Harper

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Rating: R

Though it's still very much a product of a time of certain jokes that haven't aged well, it's still remarkable how the humor and the satirical edge of this mockumentary has remained so current. As a very-low budget mockumentary of a still-young American hip hop scene, there's so much more effort that goes into these fake songs and music videos than you'd expect. But the film doesn't stop at simply poking fun at the rappers and hip hop artists of the era; the jokes always circle back around to the racism of the time and the self-seriousness of the culture in the music industry. It's a hilarious time capsule with some brutally incisive lines in practically every scene.

Genre: Comedy, Mockumentary, Music

Actor: Barry Shabaka Henley, Deezer D, Devin Kamin, Don Reed, Faizon Love, G. Smokey Campbell, Homeselle Joy, Kasi Lemmons, Larry B. Scott, LaVerne Anderson, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Monique Gabrielle, Penny Johnson Jerald, Rose Jackson, Rusty Cundieff

Director: Rusty Cundieff

This Eddie Murphy comedy had all the ingredients to be both a famous movie and an award-winner, but neither happened. It tells the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who became famous for creating a character called Dolemite, a pimp, and who later attempted to make his own movie based on the same character. Murphy plays Rudy, but there are also other recognizable faces in supporting roles: Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It's above all a funny movie, but being Eddie Murphy's first R-rated movie since 1999, it's also a realistic portrayal of both 1970s L.A. and the struggles of being a black filmmaker at the time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: A.J. Tannen, Aaron Craven, Akono Dixon, Aleksandar Filimonović, Amy Keys, Baker Chase Powell, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bob Odenkirk, Brandon Stewart, Bubba Ganter, Chelsea Gilson, Cheryl Francis Harrington, Chris Rock, Claude Phillips, Cole S. McKay, Craig Brewer, Craig Robinson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dale Gibson, David B. Lyons, Demetrius Hodges, Denise Milfort, Eddie Murphy, Erik Kilpatrick, Garland Whitt, Gerald Downey, Henry Monfries, Ivo Nandi, Jamaal Lewis, Jernard Burks, Jill Savel, John Michael Herndon, Joshua Weinstein, Kazy Tauginas, Keegan-Michael Key, Kezii Curtis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lamar Usher, Leonel Claude, Li Eubanks, Luenell, Michael Peter Bolus, Mike Epps, Milan Carter, Monique StaTeena, Phil Abrams, Quartay Denaya, Ron Cephas Jones, Sade E. Moore, Saudia Rashed, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Tasha Smith, Tituss Burgess, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Toni Duclottni, Wesley Snipes

Director: Craig Brewer

Rating: R

, 2017

This fun drama is about a 90-year-old who’s still searching for answers to life’s existential questions. Lucky smokes, drinks, and is pretty angry (a not-so-chill atheist); but he’s still around.

Harry Dean Stanton, in what feels like an extension to his character Lucky, passed away a year after the film premiered in 2017. This was the last role of the legendary Alien and The Godfather actor.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ana Mercedes, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bertila Damas, Beth Grant, David Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Harry Dean Stanton, Hugo Armstrong, James Darren, Ron Livingston, Tom Skerritt, Yvonne Huff

Director: John Carroll Lynch

Rating: Not Rated

With other available resources that tell a more well-balanced story of Tina Turner's life (notably, the 2021 documentary Tina), What's Love Got to Do with It shouldn't, by any means, be used seen as the definitive portrait of the American-Swiss singer. Still, while this 1993 biopic, insists on depicting violence instead of dissecting it, there's something to be said about how uncompromisingly it shows us what an abusive relationship can look like. As a plea to see beyond the public personas of celebrities, the film makes for an effective statement—especially because of a truly despicable turn from Laurence Fishburne, and the power that steadily builds within Angela Bassett.

Genre: Drama, History, Music

Actor: Angela Bassett, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bo Kane, Chi McBride, Cora Lee Day, Damon Hines, Daniel McDonald, Jackie O'Brien, Jenifer Lewis, Khandi Alexander, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Colyar, O'Neal Compton, Patricia Sill, Penny Johnson Jerald, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly, Richard T. Jones, Rob LaBelle, Rose Jackson, Shavar Ross, Sherman Augustus, Suli McCullough, Timmy Cappello, Tina Turner, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Virginia Capers

Director: Brian Gibson